After an 0-2 start, the Carolina Panthers have won four straight and five of six to improve to 5-3 and pull within one game of the New Orleans Saints for the NFC South lead.
With 2013 NFL regular season officially halfway over, Panthers 101 is doling out midseason grades for each position group.
Today, we give the running backs their mark on the midterm.
Evaluation: With Jonathan Stewart sidelined, DeAngelo Williams handled most of the backfield duty through the first seven games. Williams, who has enjoyed a productive start to the season, currently ranks ninth in the NFL with 519 yards rushing.
However, the veteran running back has one big blemish – a fumble late in the season opener against Seattle – that cost the Panthers a chance to win.
The best story of the Carolina backfield thus far is, without a doubt, Mike Tolbert. The rumbling fullback has slowly seen his role increase over the course of the season – and for good reason. He's been a virtual lock on short-yardage and goal-line situations, scoring six times (two receiving) from inside the 10-yard line.
We thought rookie Kenjon Barner might get some touches, but that hasn't been the case. The ex-track star, who was sidelined for the first month of the season, has just one carry for one yard through eight games. Barner has well-noted fumble issues, and presumably has yet to earn the trust of the coaching staff.
With Jonathan Stewart returning with fresh legs for the second half of the season, the ground game should only get better as the Panthers head down the stretch.
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